For many moving to Panama and especially the Chiriqui highlands, the fact that it is the bread basket of the country was a major attraction. At a time with food prices are escalating, the fact that less land is being cultivated for food production could not come at a worse time. This article from La Prensa gives us the reasons and ramifications along with some interesting statisitcs.
Business & Economy
Agricultural sector in crisis
In the past five years in Panama have stopped cultivating about 35,000 hectares, with a noticeable drop in rice.
|GRAIN. During the 2010-2011 crop season in the country is 58 000 hectares of cultivated rice. In Panama, the annual per capita consumption is 154 pounds, the highest in Central America. LA PRENSA / Jihan Rodríguez.1486945|
Aet Elisa Tejera C.
The agricultural sector did not stabilize, and increasingly less land devoted to food production.
In the past five years in Panama the agricultural landscape has been in decline, have stopped cultivating about 35 hectares, food imports have increased and the country's food security is at risk.
The lack of agricultural policies that encourage the production, poor access to financing, the contraction of international markets and bad weather were the final blow to finish buried in 2010 in a sector that is stumbling.
Virgilio Saldaña, president of the Association of Producers of Chiriquí highlands, described as disastrous this year that is ending, where vegetables, mainly potatoes and onions, were lost in the field by excessive rains.
However, Saldana said, the producers have not only had to deal with climate variability and high production costs, but also to uncontrolled imports.
It is estimated that 2010 closed with some 220 million pounds of onions imported, 44% of annual consumption in the whole country is 500 million pounds.
In the Chiriqui province between 2002 and 2009 some 941 farmers abandoned crops traditionally planted, according to a report of the Chamber of Commerce in this region.
Some migrated to livestock producers or other type of crop and others simply left agricultural activity. The main drop was recorded in crops such as rice, coffee, banana, sorghum, corn and potatoes.
Francisco Antúnez, a member of the Union of Nontraditional Agroexporters Panama, warned that failure to establish policies designed to encourage production, the country depends on imports, threatening food security.
During the 2010-2011 crop season in the country will be cultivated only a few thousand 500 hectares of cucurbits, where three years ago 6 000 hectares were planted.
For this year, shipping to Europe and United States non-traditional products such as watermelon, melon, pumpkin and pineapple fell 40%, causing a considerable decline in a sector that the country regularly generated revenues of 100 million dollars annually.
"Three years ago cucurbit production generated about 20 thousand jobs, a figure that has dropped to 6 000 jobs. In the agricultural year 2009-2010 the export of cucurbits generated revenues of $ 52 million, which could fall to $ 30 million next year, estimated Antúnez.
The Minister of Agriculture, Emilio Kieswetter, acknowledged that the sector is in crisis. Rice, the staple grain in the diet of the Panamanian, is a crop that has reduced the acreage planted.
In 1994 the country grew about 75 thousand hectares of grain and in 2010 reached 58 000 hectares.
Sorghum has run a worse fate. 20 years ago in the country grew about 12 thousand hectares of corn and sorghum is now about to disappear, "said Kieswetter.
To try to revive the sector, the Ministry of Agriculture is working on a strategic plan at a cost of $ 700 million.
Initially, the plan will focus on boosting the production of milk, meat, rice, corn, potatoes, onions, beans and sugar cane, to try to minimize the cost of basic food basket, "said Kieswetter.
In order to reduce the cost of the basket will remove distortions in the domestic market and strengthen the capacity of storage and distribution of food, he added.
You can strengthen outreach programs, where the producer is able to provide direct technical assistance in the field and not only production but also administrative and post-harvest handling. SEE 38A
500 000 - quintals of onions are consumed annually in the country.
250 - Acres of potatoes and onions have been cut in the last year.
105 - Farmers in upland Chiriqui, stopped growing vegetables in 2010.
Failure to establish policies designed to encourage production, the country depends on imports endangering food security. "
The agricultural sector is in crisis, more and more producers leaving the business. To reactivate the plant is preparing a strategic plan.
Minister of Measure